Grey’s Anatomy’s Chandra Wilson Talks Daughter Sarina’s Incurable Illness
Even as a star of Grey’s Anatomy, Chandra Wilson would probably prefer to have spent less of her life in hospitals and doctor’s offices.
But now she and daughter Sarina McFarlane are opening up about Sarina’s real-life medical mystery, and their self-advocacy is inspiring.
Sarina’s symptoms first came to light when she was 16. After an outing with friends, she developed what she thought was a bad case of food poisoning.
The nausea and the vomiting didn’t stop, however, and she and her mom knew something was amiss.
“She would get these terrible bouts of vomiting and stabbing abdominal pains,” the Miranda Bailey portrayer tells People in this week’s issue.
“I thought, ‘This was crazy.’ Something was wrong with my daughter, and nobody could tell me what it was.”
The actress couldn’t bear to see her daughter in such agony, nor could she find anyone to give her an answer, even with all the diligent record-keeping she did.
“I found myself tracking what foods she was eating, where we were, tracking all this information myself,” the actress says. “Each hospital visit, I would put the info into a binder. By month eight, I was walking around with this gigantic binder.”
Chandra told the Los Angeles Times in 2014 it was this experience that taught her how to be an advocate.
“I walked around with my big old folder with a true log of every episode,” she said.
“You can’t expect that a hospital or doctor’s office is going to follow everything 100 percent with all the patients — so that's where you come in.”
Chandra and Sarina endured 10 agonizing months with the mystery, and Sarina was hospitalized for dehydration many times in that timeframe.
Finally, an answer came in 2010: Sarina was diagnosed with mitochondrial dysfunction, in which the body’s cells are severely depleted of energy, and cyclic vomiting syndrome, a rare disorder with symptoms like nausea and exhaustion.
Sarina tells People she was “scared, frustrated, and depressed” before the diagnosis, especially since no one understood what she was going through.
“People in high school thought I was throwing up because I was trying to lose weight,” she says.
Even worse, medical professionals were skeptical about Sarina’s story.
“If you go to the hospital two, three, or four times, they think you’re a druggie,” she says.
“You have to go through the process of being believed again,” Chandra adds.
Sarina’s doctor, Courtagen Life Sciences Medical Director Dr. Richard Boles, says her condition is extremely difficult to diagnosis and the episodes “tend to be abrupt, coming at different frequencies.”
There’s no cure, he explains, but the symptoms can be controlled with the right diet, medicine, and habits.
Sarina is 23 years old now, studying screenwriting at Cal State Northridge and trying to keep a positive outlook.
“I could be sad about it,” she says, “but it’s going to come back anyway.”
And she has the support of her famous mom, of course.
“I keep my advocacy there,” Chandra told the Los Angeles Times. “I say, ‘I am no longer your manager, I’m just your consultant. So whenever you want to talk to me, I’m right here!’”
Check out more of Wetpaint’s coverage of Grey’s Anatomy below:
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